The Weakerthans with AA Bondy and Christine Fellows
Friday ï¿½ The Mad Hatter
Punk has mutated from the days when it was little more than counting off a four and exploding into young, loud and snotty mode at ear-bleeding levels. Few bands understand that evolution as well as the Weakerthans. The Manitoba, Canada, quartet roared out of the Great White North more than a decade ago with their acclaimed indie debut, 1997's Fallow, following it up three years later with the equally well-received Left and Leaving in 2000. Leaving eventually earned status as one of the 10 greatest Canadian albums of all time in Chart Magazine's 2005 reader's poll. The band has maintained the three-year release pattern ever since.
In 2001, the Weakerthans separated geographically, with guitarists John K. Samson and Stephen Carroll remaining in Winnipeg and bassist John Sutton and drummer Jason Tait relocating to Toronto. Although the move seemed creatively counterintuitive, the distance produced the band's masterwork and debut for Epitaph Records, 2003's Reconstruction Site, a frenetic sonic mural that incorporated the Weakerthans' furious Punk foundation with broad swaths of Folk swing, Alt.Country twang and Pop melodicism, all in the service of Samson's brilliantly absurd, reflective and poignant sense of wordplay.
A year later, Sutton split and was replaced by Greg Smith, who joined as the Weakerthans continued to tour on their ecstatically received third album. Last fall's ironically titled Reunion Tour served up a similarly satisfying dose of the Weakerthans' exquisite genre jumble; the album's first single, "Civil Twilight," tied the Arcade Fire's record for the longest-running No. 1 single on CBC Radio 3's R3-30 charts (they own the record as the only band to hit the top spot in the same year with two different songs, "Civil Twilight" and their cover of the Rheostatics' "Bad Time to Be Poor").
Plant yourself in the Weakerthans' audience and see what our northern neighbors have been rightly clamoring about for the past decade. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.)
Robin Trower with The Sonny Moorman Group
Tuesday ï¿½ Bogart's
Robin Trower came to prominence as a member of Procol Harum in the late '60s/early '70s, but his guitar presence in the band was usually experienced fleetingly. Trower's thick, distorted, Blues-drenched tones seemed an odd counterpoint to Procol Harum's grandly bombastic symphonic Rock, and in 1972 Trower embarked on what became his massively successful solo career.
Trower briefly flirted with a quartet called Jude, featuring vocalist Frankie Miller, bassist James Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore, but the band dissolved before recording. Trower, Dewar and Isidore remained together as a trio, in the same blazing Rock trinity-assemblage as Trower's hero, Jimi Hendrix. The threesome's 1973 debut, Twice Removed from Yesterday, was an eye-opener (even after the tip-off of his Procol Harum swan song, 1971's Broken Barricades), but their follow-up, 1974's Bridge of Sighs, was a certifiable Hard Rock/Blues classic. It quickly went gold and became a staple of FM radio.
Trower's relentless touring schedule cemented his status as a bona fide guitar hero in the U.S., and his albums in the '70s (For Earth Below, Live, In City Dreams, Caravan to Midnight) all reached high chart positions. While Trower experimented with arrangements and different guitar techniques in the late '70s/early '80s, he always returned to a pure Rock format on subsequent albums, often bucking whatever happened to be the prevailing trend at the moment.
Trower's commercial stock dipped slightly in the '80s and '90s, but he continued to release albums with shifting lineups. Most recently, he released his third album with ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce, Seven Moons.
Through more than 20 studio albums, a half dozen live and greatest hits packages and a handful of interesting collaborations (including playing on and co-producing Bryan Ferry's Taxi and Mamouna albums), Robin Trower is one of the last truly monumental guitar talents. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.)